Eliano Marques is the Principal Data Scientist and Global Data Science Practice Lead at Think Big, a Teradata company.
When it comes to gaining data insights, most organizations take a tools-based approach: perform analytics with the tools on hand that the analysts are accustomed to using. However, a better approach is to determine which tools are going to deliver the information you need. Ultimately you want to use the best tools for the job rather than relying on the tools that your company has traditionally used.
Take a Holistic Approach
Most companies are hamstrung by their existing tools. They’re wrapped up in the version they’re using and what their analysts are most familiar with. For better results, the project should determine which tools should be used, not the other way around.
It’s tempting to want to trial the latest big data technologies, especially with all the budding hype around open source. But a more valuable method is to first identify the use cases you want to solve and think through what you ultimately want to achieve. This allows you to shift from a tools-based mentality to an insights-driven, use case perspective that will ultimately deliver value much faster. Ideally, your business will have a data scientist who will look at a business problem and then work backwards to determine which technology will best deliver the information they need.
Let Use Cases Drive the Process
A tool agnostic approach leads to quick insights and actions. For example, at Think Big, we’re working with a company to improve its customer retention. This required gathering and analyzing a diverse range of data to identify customers at risk of dropping the company’s services. By knowing the end goal upfront, we could profile the data we wanted, break it into chunks as needed, use the relevant tools to generate insights at scale to share across the enterprise, and collaborate with the business to build models that would predict which customers were likely to leave.
The company had been using a legacy technology. If we would have continued relying on it, we would have limited ourselves to answering only certain questions. We realized immediately that other tools were needed. As a result, we gained the agility and the ability to tackle the full scope of the issue and uncover new insights that proved invaluable. In fact, the company told us we’d delivered more value in three weeks than they’d gained in the previous six months.
It’s not surprising that a use case first vs. tool based approach gets the desired results quickly. What is surprising is that plenty of companies are content with the status quo when clearly better options are available.